Does the best advice come from the most successful people?

Note to my future self…

Today I came across this question on Quora and I found one of the answers to be particularly insightful. Alex K. Chen responded:

“Not necessarily. The best advice often comes from highly perceptive/intelligent/open people who know a very wide range of highly successful people (of different backgrounds and cognitive profiles) – these people are better accustomed to giving the best advice to those who are different from them.”

I really liked this answer because I had never consciously taken into consideration a person’s perceptiveness when listening to their advice. As Alex mentions in the post this kind of has to be the case because you don’t know this person outside of the specific moment in which you’re listening to their advice so you don’t have any reference points.

You can tell whether someone who’s successful is more or less smart by the connections that they make and how they articulate their insights. They same cannot be said about their perceptiveness. The problem is that getting to know whether one person is highly perceptive takes a lot of time. Time, which people that want to be successful probably don’t have in the first place. So far this seems like a classic example of having to make important decisions given limited information. In this case, you need to assess whether the person that you’re receiving advice from is self-aware enough to identify the key variables that had a disproportional role in their success.

There’s no real takeaway here. It’s more of a thought experiment and something to keep in mind when you look up to people for advice.

Now back to work..

Caveat: It’s important to account for the medium in which we listen to their advice. For example, a person’s story might be heavily edited in a book that they write or extremely oversimplified for a interview they do on TV.